The new Warlords of New York expansion for Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is two things at once. On one hand, it is a welcome chunk of new content that was badly needed in a game that has only had small additions over the course of the last year. On the other hand, Warlords acts as a springboard that marks the beginning of the game’s second year which will be significantly more well-supported. For those that treat games like The Division 2 as a hobby, this is wonderful news. Those who are just looking for the next slice of looter-shooter pie to enjoy will also have plenty to enjoy here as well.
Warlords marks a turning point for The Division 2 that symbolizes both how the game is experienced week to week as well as how players interact with its systems hour by hour. With a new open world, new missions, new bosses, new skills, and an entirely new loot system, Warlords of New York is sure to satisfy anyone looking to continue their Agent’s climb to power. While there are some small hiccups along the way, Warlords looks to be an excellent addition to the franchise and a must-buy for anyone looking to sink their teeth deep into a solid loot and build system.
Chasing Aaron Keener
A deep and riveting story has never been a strong point for any Division game. Developer Massive Entertainment has stated clearly that they want to build a skeleton of a narrative so you can create your own story in your Agent. This is fine, to a degree, but building out a living world in which to create your character has always been important. Thankfully, over the last six months this narrative has started to take shape.
With the release of Episode 2 last Fall, we began to see a continuing thread appear. A cure for the dollar flu has been found. Our agents had to infiltrate the Pentagon and the subterranean DARPA research labs in order to extract it. In Episode 3 we were shipped to Coney Island to save a researcher that could use that cure to and replicate it enough to spread around the nation.
While on Coney island, it became clear that Aaron Keener, the series’ lead antagonist, was playing chess while we were playing checkers. It turned out that he had used the scientist to help create an even deadlier virus that kills in minutes which he eventually released in New York. This was seen as the red gas in the trailer for the new expansion. Now we are following Keener back to the Big Apple to take down not only his operation, but the other Rogue agents that are working for him.
Each of these Agents must be taken down in order to find Keener and end his plan. These make up the four main story missions of the expansion and they are incredible. It’s safe to say that I’m putting all four of these missions at the top of my favorites list. All of them provide fun and interesting environments and culminate in easily the most interesting boss fights the game has ever seen. It’s a fine story held together strongly by awesome mission design, but in the end, if you’re looking for any real emotion, you won’t find it in this franchise.
A New, But Familiar Open World
It feels wonderful to be back in New York. Washington DC is a beautiful map that is full of incredible detail, but there was one thing I always missed. Nowhere but New York has the towering buildings that somehow make you feel claustrophobic. They trap you in and make you feel the weight of this catastrophe around every corner.
While the city is no longer covered in snow, life has not gotten any easier. It seems that shortly after the weather warmed, New York was hit with a massive hurricane. This devastation can be seen everywhere from ripped up trees to collapsed bridges, smashed buildings, and giant sinkholes everywhere you go.
The map is nearly half the size of DC so there is a lot to explore. It also has a great deal of verticality to it as well so be on the lookout for underground entrances as well as ladders and ropes to climb. Massive has done an exceptional job at creating fun environmental puzzles for you to solve, especially in order to get your hands on the new well-hidden SHD caches.
Scattered everywhere Agents can also find a massive amount of audio logs. These are little snippets of conversation that bring backstory to the missions you are carrying out. Intuitive players may even be able to decipher what comes next if they’re able to sniff out enough logs around the city.
Players can also expect to see familiar enemies in New York as well. Both the Cleaners and the Rikers are back and they are pissed. Both factions have had time to build out their arsenals and both are significantly more difficult to deal with than before. The Cleaners have more fire to spray than ever, and the range at which they can ignite Agents is terrifying.
The Rikers, on the other hand, have found a new favorite weapon: nails. Nail guns, nail bombs, and more all cause you to bleed so stats like Hazard Protection are more important than ever. Be ready to deal with new challenges in new ways because both of these new factions will push your combat tactics to the limit.
With the new expansion also comes a paradigm shift in how every piece of gear works in the game. All players will see the new changes regardless of whether they have purchased Warlords or not. The main goal of the changes was to simply make it easier for players to both understand how to maximize their builds and also be able to more quickly identify items as useful or not.
One of the ways this was accomplished was that every piece of gear has now been assigned a “core attribute”. All armor now rolls with either Weapon Damage, Armor, or a Skill Tier which instantly categorizes it for you as offensive, defensive, or skill-focused. Gear also now has secondary attributes that are more fluid for other stats like Crit Chance, Hazard Protection, Skill Haste, and many more.
These stats are now displayed with a visual bar that shows how good the roll of each stat is compared to the maximum that stat can drop. This makes it much easier to look at a piece of gear and decide if it’s worth keeping or not. Talents have also been consolidated to the backpack and chestpiece slot to make it less tedious managing so many talents at once.
Recalibrate Your Thinking
In addition to these changes, Recalibration has also been overhauled. Previously if a player found a piece of gear that had strong stats but maybe a bad talent, they would have to find a matching piece of gear with the talent they wanted and break that piece directly to move the talent to their desired slot. This led players to hoarding gear in hopes of always having access to the right recalibration stats.
With Loot 2.0, players can now “store” stats and talents they find without having to keep items in their stash. Say you find a Marksman Rifle with a really great Headshot Damage stat but everything else is mediocre. You can peel off that Headshot Damage and store it in your library to be applied to every other Marksman Rifle you ever find again. It’s yours. Forever. This same logic applies to all stats and talents on all weapons and armor.
If nothing else, players should be extremely excited about this new Recalibration Bench. We’ve never seen anything like it in a looter shooter before and it is a game-changer. It gives players an incredible amount of agency in their builds. Future games will be considered less-than if they decide to forgo this feature.
Another new “feature” that players can look forward to is an entirely revamped content calendar. If you’re like me, you got to the end of the base game and kind of just… stopped. I didn’t feel like there was much else to do. With Year 2, that will no longer be the case. Massive has shown an entire road map that will form a flow of challenge and reward for dedicated players.
Leagues are two-week long challenges that pit players against each other in who can be the best agent. Goals include speed runs of heroic missions, killing enemy factions with fire, and much more. Rewards include new cosmetics and consumables the more challenges Agents overcome.
Global Events are a fundamental change to the nature of the game. For one week, new mechanics change how players approach each battle, and they will be rewarded the more they engage with these changes. Unique cosmetics and even an exotic cache await those who put in the time.
Manhunts are very similar to the story campaign of Warlords. Players must pursue four Rogue Agents to gather data to pinpoint the location of a final big bad boss. These battles will reward Agents with large boosts in experience and the final boss will drop a new skill variant for all players to enjoy.
All of this is to help players feel rewarded while they climb the Seasonal Ladder up to level 100. Just like every other battle pass, players get small rewards at every rung and bigger rewards at different milestones. The game grants XP for every activity, but bigger boosts will come from participating in the activities discussed above.
The first Manhunt starts on March 10th and from there the party will never stop. It’s great to see that The Division is giving players goals to strive for every week and not just two new missions every three months.
Does This Feel Harder?
One gripe that is running through the community right now is focused on new enemy scaling. Warlords removed a stat in the game called Damage to Elites which obviously helped players in the highest level content where elites are more common than any other enemy type. This, in addition to the other loot changes lead Massive to retune the enemy health and damage to compensate for stronger Agents.
Players feel that even with some builds already coming together, the enemies are simply too strong. Massive may have let the pendulum swing a little too hard, but I haven’t had the chance to dive deep into the harder difficulties just yet.
What I can say is that Agents may consider matchmaking their first run through the new campaign missions. Especially with the new bosses being so complex, there are many situations that are downright HARD in these new encounters. Bringing friends along the way will help players learn the mechanics and if they want a challenge, they can crank the difficulty later. We’ll see how these issues are addressed over the course of the season.
We’re In The Endgame Now
Like Destiny 2 before it, it seems that The Division 2 was made for players new to the series but later decided it wanted to cater to its more dedicated fans. Warlords of New York is an excellent expansion and marks the beginning of an entirely new attitude toward content for the game’s second year. A fun, challenging campaign with exceedingly great boss fights and a new open world are only the beginning of what we should expect from this expansion. With new weekly seasonal content and rewards on the way, new loot and exotics, a substantially improved Recalibration system, and more, The Division 2 is poised to be the game to beat for the looter-shooter genre in 2020.